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Sunday, February 26 2017
Things that will change when you realize you are worthy

Things that will change when you realize you are worthy

One of the biggest struggles that people with eating disorders face is accepting that worth comes from within, not from their body, their actions, or their accomplishments. When I was in the depths of my disorder, I made myself sick trying to please others; I always took care of myself last. I put all my worth in what I could do right, what I could eat right, and how I could look right.  It was exhausting, and the only person left unfulfilled was me. In recovery, I have discovered that this is one of the hardest habits to break; I have struggled with guilt of putting myself and my feelings first to live the best possible life for me. But somewhere deep down, my wise mind is applauding my attempts to have a voice, to have an opinion, and to enjoy myself without measuring up to other’s feelings or standards. Here are a few areas that you can expect to feel guilty about when in recovery, yet no one should feel guilty for these things. Ever.

1. It is okay to enjoy food!

As I sat down at an event planning meeting with fellow ED advocates, I saw an item on the menu that I had never tried before because of my prior strict food rules: fried pickles! I attended Mississippi State University for my undergrad, and anyone who has graced the beautiful town of Starkville will tell you, it is a crime to never have had Little Dewey’s fried pickles! As I ate the delectable, perfectly salty and crisp pickles, I wanted to cry- they were SO GOOD! And then, I wanted to cry from guilt… I heard the ED voice say, “You should not like these! ” and then my wise mind fought back… Why not? You see, when someone who looked at food as the enemy for so long realizes that food can be pleasurable and can be enjoyed, it is a conflict of interest between the ED mind and the wise mind. This is a normal part of recovery, but it is not easy. As I drove home from the experience, the left over fried pickles next to me, I realized that it was okay for me to like a food that use to be off limits. Not only is it okay, it is pretty damn cool. I had won over my ED brain, ate the delicious new food, and enjoyed a meal with friends. I shoved the guilt into the “ED file” in my brain and drove home feeling satisfied and proud.

2. It is okay to feel angry

When I was deep in my disorder, most of my anger was centered around my ED being displeased. If I could not go on a run, I was ill. If I did not have a choice of a safe food to eat, I was irritated. If I could not make it to the bathroom to get rid of the food I just consumed, I was annoyed. The ones I loved connected all my anger to my eating disorder, so it made me invalid most of the time in my emotions to the people around me. Now that eating disordered behavior is not in the picture, I am learning that my anger, disappointment, and sadness actually may have value and merit when they felt so dismissed before. Now, when my husband comes home late and misses our Valentine’s dinner- I have a right to be mad! I am not mad because his tardiness made me miss my run, or his missing the meal made me skip dinner; I am simply disappointed because he hurt my feelings. Me. Brooke. A person who is allowed to feel real feelings now that ED is not numbing them out or redirecting them towards a disorder. This can be confusing to navigate at first, but talking out your feelings with the ones you love can help you sort them out more clearly each and every time.

3. You have a voice and it matters!

When in the talons of the beast of an eating disorder, one does not have a voice. Eating disordered beliefs think for and speak for a person a majority of the time. There is an alternative reality that becomes real for the sufferer of the disease, and it is incredibly hard to see truth from ED lies. I lost who I was when ED had me in his grasp, and I most definately lost my voice. My eating disorder mind convinced me that I was not good enough to have an opinion, not smart enough to speak, and not worthy enough to feel. Instead of speaking up for myself I would go with whatever the opinions were of those around me, and it left me feeling empty and not important. If someone hurt my feelings, I felt like I deserved it. If a friend blew me off, I just knew it was my fault somehow. Everything always boiled down to me not being good enough. In recovery, I realize that is not true. I am good enough; I am important, and my opinions do matter! The guilty feelings that accompany this new discovery can be debilitating at times, but I combat them by remembering that sad, stifled woman I use to be. I was not doing anyone any favors by being pleasing; I was merely depriving them of knowing the real me.

Don’t let the guilty emotions and feelings of shame seep into the ever fragile cracks of your recovery. Fill yourself with love of self and hope for a better future because it is out there for the taking. All you have to do is keep moving forward!

Posted by: Brooke Heberling AT 01:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Tuesday, February 21 2017
Why phrases like,

Why phrases like, "Go eat a hamburger" are not helpful

“There is a wide misconception in the world that eating disorders are about food… I am here to tell you, food becomes the focus, but the deeper lying issues that brought about the eating disorder behaviors are the real problem. When I was at my worst in anorexia, I had a co-worker tell me to “go eat a hamburger”. I laughed off the insensitive and ignorant comment when it was said, but I went back to my classroom and I cried. My first thoughts were, “I wish it were that simple.”” – Brooke Heberling, Recovery Warriors

The day I was considered in recovery from an eating disorder was the day that Dr. Burnett and I sat down to a good old fashioned Big Mac from McDonald's! Even though it was me "going to eat a hamburger", the victory was not in the actual two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese (you get the drift!); the victory was in the entire experience leading up to, during, and after the meal. 

Leading up to the meal:

I drove my car to the iconic fast food restaurant, parked in the parking lot, got out of the car, and walked into the establishment without turning on my heels in sheer terror and high tailing it to the car in panic attack mode… that is how my prior failed attempts to visit to McDonald’s had ended. My eating disorder had trained my mind to think that fast food restaurants would kill me slowly by making me gain weight instantly. This is an obvious lie that my ED fabricated, but my beliefs were so real that I truly had not set foot in a McDonald’s since I was 13-years-old. Actually getting into the building and stepping up to the counter was a triumph in itself.

During the meal:

Where the disordered Brooke would have not eaten the burger at all, the healed Brooke sat down and faced a fear. Just as it is an accomplishment for someone who is afraid of heights to climb a ladder, the meal was a feat that, with the help of treatment, I was able to conquer. Dr. Burnett and I talked about any and everything except the burger. It was so refreshing to be able to enjoy discourse and conversation while eating instead of ruminating on how many calories I was consuming, what eating disorder behaviors I would have to use to compensate for what I ate, or food and body shaming myself until I just gave in to the ED voice that would be at the reigns of every meal. Eating was exhausting, and that is why I seldom partook in the act while deep in my disorder. But, the day I ate that burger, the voice in my head was quite because of the intense treatment and retraining of my beliefs that Manna brought to me. I have to admit- the recovered Brooke thought the burger was pretty darn good.

After the meal:

When in my disorder, if I did eat, I would have plans to run, purge, or compensate by not eating later to even out the caloric consumption that I believed that I should not eat or did not deserve to eat. Can you believe that? I truly believed that I did not deserve to be nourished. After the McDonald’s meal, I went home and played with my kids. Does that seem anti-climactic? It may for some, but for me it was the MVP trophy of recovery. I ate and went home. My kids got the full attention of their mother and I got to be present in the moment instead of living in the past meal or fretting the one to come.

It took 16 years, but I had a meal at McDonald’s. If it was as simple as just “eating a hamburger” I would have walked up, ordered, and eaten a long time ago. Before you make quick judgments, please think about what it actually takes to face a deep rooted and psychological fear for someone who is struggling from an eating disorder.

To read more of this article, please go to:

Posted by: Brooke Heberling AT 10:57 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, February 13 2017
Help me Help you.

Help me Help you.

Is there a person in your life that you feel may be struggling with an eating disorder?

There is no cookie cutter mold for anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, but there are sure common signs that are universal: disconnection from loved ones, a lack of interest in social activities, the inability to enjoy a meal without anxiety and discomfort- seclusion, fabrication, manipulation, depression, anxiety… the list goes on.  For someone who is constantly battling eating disorder thoughts in their brain, the lack of ability to be present in the moment is palpable. People who suffer from ED think they are fooling those around them, but as you as a loved one know, they only person they are fooling is him/herself.

I know this because I was the one who thought I was fooling everyone.  In reality, I was fooling no one but myself.

Many people tried to help me see how sick I was when I was in the midst of my battle with anorexia. My husband would tell me my “food rules” for myself were unhealthy. He would try to make me finish my meals and make me see the error in my ways of giving up carbohydrates and sugar - but my ED told me I was “right”.  In the eating disordered brain, ED always wins. My best friends did not want to anger me by speaking up, so they silently supported in the ways they could. They were afraid to confront me because they did not understand what to say to me.  A co-worker of mine took the direct route: he said that I was “gross” from being so skinny and told me to “eat a hamburger.”  These words are a classic saying that most every anorexic sufferer has heard at least once or twice.  Needless to say, these attempts to help me during my time of refusal and denial did not go over well.  

A person with an eating disorder is no different from any other human being in that they do not like being told what to do and that they are wrong, sick, manipulated, or bullied into making changes.  People who suffer from eating disorders are human and want care, want security, and want to trust the person who is confronting them on such a sensitive and severe matter.

So how can you do this?

1. Be present and build trust.

When someone I did not know well or someone who did not invest in spending time with me would comment on my health, I would immediately do an imaginary eye roll, throw a fake smile their way, and not think twice about the interaction. “What do they know- they don’t know me!” would be my justification. If someone who I loved and/or cared about would make an observation or question my health, even if I would brush off the comment or differ the conversation, the interaction would stick with me. If you are not close to the person you are concerned about, talk with someone who is close to them. Allow someone who is in a trusted, meaningful relationship with that person to voice concerns in a non-threatening conversation.

2. Don’t make accusations, but ask questions.

Think about it- when you are going through something extremely difficult or trying, who do you want to confine in? The person in your life who tells you how you are handling your situation is wrong and chastises you for your stupidity or the person in your life who is willing to listen and allows you to feel your emotions and helps you come to the conclusion yourself? Believe me, most people would choose the latter. The best way to reach someone is to ask questions.

When my husband stopped telling me what to do and started asking me questions, my unwillingness to take a deeper look into my disease and health lessened. Even if the question did not get answered at the moment, it would plant a seed in my brain; I would contemplate it for as long as I needed, and then I would often come back to him when I was ready to talk. Once, in the kitchen as I was packing my lunch for the day, he asked me, “Do you think that sandwich is enough fuel for your body?” Annoyed, I said “Yes”, but when I sat down to eat, I thought about how small the portion was and how it lacked so many nutrients. When I would lace up my shoes to go on a run, he would ask, “Is this a get to run, or a have to run?” Again, annoyed I would answer, “Get to, of course!”, but as my feet pounded the pavement I would truly know in my wise mind that my ED was making me run. The questions made me think; and after a while, my wise mind could no longer deny the truth. Ask your loved one questions and listen when they speak. You will know when you are talking to their “wise mind” (healthy thinking) and when you are talking to ED. I know you are sick of ED- but…

3. Be patient, and don’t give up!

Everyone is on his/her own journey and you cannot make someone be in a place of thinking clearly and being rational when they are simply not there yet. Be patient. It took me 16 years to decide I needed help. That is a long time!  The people I love had to endure years of watching me struggle, feeling me pull away, and searching for answers that they could not find. I was not able to help them because I didn’t know how to help myself.  Intensive treatment gave me the tools to learn how to help myself, and in turn, taught me how to use my voice to tell my loved ones what I needed from them. Don’t give up. My support system is why I am still alive today. No matter how much I pushed them away, they loved me through it while still respecting their boundaries and feelings. No matter how much they did not understand my disorder, they were willing to participate in my recovery and learn how to help me stay healthy. Even if it meant digging into their own past, their own shortcomings, and their own part in my pain, they were willing. I am forever grateful for their patience and willing to participate in my journey to freedom from ED.

4. Seek professional help

Recovery is a delicate balance; my therapist Dr. Genie Burnett has a perfectly balanced mobile in her office that hangs above her desk. When I came out of treatment, she sat my husband and me down and told us we were like that mobile. We learned a balance with the eating disorder in the mix, and when I got help it ruined the flow of our lives. Although the eating disorder was detrimental, we learned to live in that chaotic space with ED in the driver’s seat. Without my ED, we had to relearn to function healthily together. This is how every family and relationship works when disorder is in the mix. Not only did I need to continue to seek help and accountability to stay on track, my husband had to seek help to get rid of his resentment, fear of me relapsing, and re-creating a healthier balance for our family.  It was hard for him to admit he needed help because it was me who was disordered, not him. In the end, he was so grateful for the support he got and the tools he learned by working with a professional in the field as well.

To sum up you can provide support to someone who is struggling by: building trust, asking questions, listening, being patient, not giving up, and seeking help for yourself.  All these things will help you help your loved one who is suffering from an eating disorder.  They will also help you cope in the process!

Posted by: Brooke Heberling AT 07:47 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, February 06 2017
Why it is never appropriate to comment on someone's weight...

Comment on someone’s weight?   WAIT!

“Wow, you have packed on the pounds!” Excuse me? What? Really? This is what a man said to me the other day after he looked me up and down with a silly grin on his face. You see, I needed to gain weight because as I was malnourished just a few months before, but his comment stuck with me, and I ruminated over and over these words in my brain. My “people pleasing” mind told me that he didn’t mean it in a bad way because he is older… He just doesn’t know how to give a compliment.  Or maybe I just need to learn to give grace to those who “don’t understand.”  In the heat of the moment, my eating disorder mind took it as a slap in the face- I wanted to use behaviors to “fix” that weight gain fact that he had pointed out to me. Well, my wise mind had other plans. It told me that is was a highly inappropriate comment that should have never come out of his mouth. Guess which mind won out? Hint- I have worked hard on my recovery…here are a few things that I want to provide thoughts on regarding those who want to talk without thinking:

1. It is never okay to comment on someone’s weight. Ever.

I am going to make a bold statement- It is never okay to comment on someone’s weight, good or bad, ever. I firmly believe this statement. There is a lie that society tells the world that if you achieve ________ weight (or X size) then you will be happy. Then you will be beautiful. Then you will be whole. Well, guess what? Weight does not determine those three factors. I was what society/media deemed as the “perfect weight/size” for all of my teen and adult years, and I was miserable. I was empty. I was burnt out and lost. I didn’t feel beautiful. I didn’t feel worthy. I was a shell of a woman with only a body to place my worth in, and that body was failing me. It was not until I turned away from perfecting my body that I was able to live in it.

2. Any comment on weight can be detrimental

As I struggled with the comment from the man about me “packing on the pounds”, I got a sad message from my neighbor. She struggles with overeating and has recently worked hard to get back to a weight that for her was healthy, and she told me that the comments on the other end of the spectrum are just as hard. She says that when people say “Wow! You look great!” or “You have lost weight, you look fantastic!” that all it makes her feel is like she was not beautiful before when she was a different weight. That those comments make her feel pressured to continue to lose/maintain, even if she feels good how she is. When is enough, enough? I will tell you…

3. When we put value in our inside (character/morals/dreams), You are enough.

For those who think that the statement of you should never comment on someone’s weight is severe, here is my argument. I worked HARD to “pack on” those pounds. I gave up my everyday life to go to treatment, I left my family, and I made it my J-O-B to recover. That takes guts. That takes grit. That takes courage. Instead of commenting on how good I look or how much weight I have gained, tell me you respect my determination. Tell me you are proud of my progress. Tell me you look up to my decision to better myself and create a better life for my children. Tell me I look joyful. Tell me you are so glad I am present and connected…. Tell me all those things that have ZERO to do with my weight.

For the drug addict who gained weight in treatment- instead of telling him “Whoa, you got fat!”, tell him, “Man, I am glad you are alive.”  For the woman who lost weight to better he health- don’t tell her “Wow, you look so good!”, tell her “Gosh, I can see the joy all over your face. I am glad you are feeling good about yourself!” To the bulimic that has fought hard to kick her purging habits, don’t tell her “Your face looks amazing now!”, tell her “I am so glad that you are able to be here and present with us at the table. I love your company!” There is always a way to compliment someone without commenting on looks or weight- and I promise you, the character and love comments connected with who a person truly is on the inside will stick a lot longer than the comments connected with how they look on the outside.

Best compliment I ever received? “Brooke, you are a Bad Ass.” – Liz Colman

I do see myself as a Bad Ass.  I love that. 

Posted by: Brooke Heberling AT 01:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
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